Scientific American Mag Scorched for ‘Absolutely Ridiculous’ Claim Football Injuries are Racist

LANDOVER, MARYLAND - JANUARY 08: Malik Hooker #28 and Neville Gallimore #96 of the Dallas
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The “violence” of football “disproportionately affects Black men,” according to a Scientific American essay that accuses the NFL of having “exploited its Black players for decades” and of “persistent anti-Black practices.”

The piece, authored by Tracie Canada, an assistant professor of cultural anthropology at Duke University, and titled “Damar Hamlin’s Collapse Highlights the Violence Black Men Experience in Football,” underscores how the “nature of football’s violence disproportionately affects Black men.”

Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, 24, is currently recovering from a cardiac arrest he suffered on the field last Monday after being tackled during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Canada called the scene “horrific for both its regularity and its exceptionality.” 

“The ordinariness of men running into each other at full speed represents a normalized—even rationalized—violence that is routine to this American game,” she wrote.

While such violence has “always riddled the sport” while affecting “all [its] players,” Canada argued that black players “are disproportionately affected.”

“While Black men are severely underrepresented in positions of power across football organizations, such as coaching and management, they are overrepresented on the gridiron,” she wrote. “Non-white players account for 70 percent of the NFL; nearly half of all Division I college football players are Black.”

“Further, through a process called racial stacking, coaches racially segregate athletes by playing position,” she added. “These demographic discrepancies place Black athletes at a higher risk during play.”

The author claimed that as a “cultural anthropologist,” she has “spent the last decade learning how Black college football players navigate the exploitation, racism, and anti-Blackness that are fundamental to its current system.”

She also insisted that Hamlin’s injury “highlights how Black men’s athletic labor sustains this brutal system.”

Citing sociologist Billy Hawkins in stating that the playing fields “are never theoretically far from plantation fields,” and activist Harry Edwards claiming “like a piece of equipment, the black athlete is used,” Canada accused financial stakeholders of valuing “Black bodies for their productive potential and physical prowess.”

“The league encourages and facilitates rigorous training and disciplining so players can execute seemingly impossible corporeal demands, all in the service of entertainment, money-making, and insatiable fandom,” she writes.

Admitting she is unaware of research comparing “the rate of injury between Black and white football players,” the author accuses the NFL of gaining “both culturally and financially from Black athletic performance.” 

“It is the most popular sports league in the United States and the most valuable professional sports league in the world. It is also a league that has exploited its Black players for decades,” she writes, adding that the league’s “success and popularity should never be disentangled from its persistent anti-Black practices” and that the “anti-Blackness of the system is inescapable.”

Arguing that without players, football games “cannot persist,” Canada concludes by calling for “structural shifts” for players to be “cared for in a way that respects their humanity.”

In response, many mocked the essay from the oldest continuously published magazine in the U.S. 

“As a black man and former NFL player I can say this article is absolutely ridiculous,” wrote former NFL Coach and Hall of Famer Tony Dungy.

Former NFL player Cory Procter called the piece “Pure trash.”

“Another absurd & incoherent article in the once-serious Scientific American,” wrote academic Christina Hoff Sommers.

“Race Marxism: Calling everything you want to control ‘racist’ until you control it,” wrote author and conservative commentator Dr. James Lindsay.

“It’s now racist for blacks to be the majority of NFL players!” wrote award-winning journalist Scott Greer.

“Football injuries are racist,” mocked singer Phil Labonte.

“All roads lead to bigotry,” insisted professor and author Gad Saad.

“In the bad old days African Americans were discriminated against in professional sports. Now that color barriers have been removed & Blacks dominate some sports a new form of discrimination has been identified…by Scientific American, of course,” wrote science writer Michael Shermer.

The essay comes as many on the left continue to see racism and bigotry in realm after realm.

Canada previously accused the NFL of “race-norming” through “statistical manipulation” whereby a “lower baseline of cognitive abilities in Black players” is assumed in “legal settlements for concussion-related injuries,” calling it an exemplification of “American football’s immersion in the legacy of slavery.”

Last month, Scientific American published an essay arguing the fight against obesity is rooted in “racism,” and that black women “consistently experience weightism in addition to sexism and racism,” while the prescribing of “weight loss” has “long since proved to be ineffective.”

Last week, TIME Magazine published a piece claiming early 20th century pushes for exercise in the U.S. stemmed from “white supremacy” in order to produce “more white babies,” while blaming the coronavirus pandemic for having “accelerated fitness inequality.”

Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein


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